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Must I disclose that I was fired at my previous workplace?

Friday July 26 2019

 A stressed man

Getting fired may be undesirable, but it does not necessarily produce career rejects. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

Q: Are employers obliged to reveal personal information on their former employees to private vetting companies? Especially those who were sacked for misconduct? Are potential employers supposed to obtain such information from without their prospective employee’s consent? If a previous employer causes me to lose a chance, what are my option for recourse? At what point should one disclose that she was dismissed from her previous workplace?

Organisations that care about the quality of their workers usually conduct thorough background checks on individuals they intend to hire. Apart from requisite qualifications and evidence of capability, organisations seek information concerning the conduct of individuals they plan to hire, which may include a full picture of their past career moves, in order to assess their suitability for a certain role. It may not sit on the face of certificates, but character holds greater career capital than technical qualifications.

Some organisations conduct their own background checks while others outsource this service. Background checks are often conducted after the interview stage of the recruitment process, ideally before parties enter into the employment contract. Seeking candidates’ agreement before conducting background checks on them is crucial. Besides this being professional, it enables an organisation to avert the risk of legal suits arising from obtaining candidates’ personal information without consent.

Questions concerning why one has moved from one company to the next would ordinarily be dealt with at the interview stage of the recruitment process. A reference check seeks to confirm, rather than establish, the veracity of the information that a candidate has provided. It is therefore advisable for a candidate to be forthright from the start concerning past instances of firing, as organisations are far more likely to be forgiving when they have such information upfront than when it is discovered afterwards. Being forthright is good for both your conscience and career.

Getting fired may be undesirable, but it does not necessarily produce career rejects. People could be fired for unjust reasons, and some of those suffer the misfortune of being dismissed for misconduct may have since learnt from their poor choices, and reformed. Organisations that recognise this would be more judicious before terminally condemning an individual just for having been fired at some point in their past. Needles to state, it is best to stay away from situations that predispose one to the firing line, or those that leave enduring stains on one’s CV.

Fred Gituku, Human Resources Practitioner